In Spell 1st Home Edition, a baby invites you to her spelling fort under the kitchen table, where you listen to, then spell 100 "sight words" that first-graders need to memorize. A dog uses each word in a sentence, and then you type it. You can click a letter if you need help finding it on the keyboard. The first test is administered by a talking cat. After 10 correct answers, you get a new coach. Several animals take turns, including a horse, a giraffe, an elephant, a monkey, a zebra, a guinea pig, a jaguar, a penguin, and a lion. Upcoming coaches' pictures appear at the top of the screen. The coach animal's face registers shock if you type in the wrong letter, which is both amusing and helpful as a visual cue for small children. If you type the word correctly, the coach smiles.
Young children may find the morphed animals delightful, although some adults might find them a bit creepy. The dog and baby employ prerecorded human speech, which sounds much better than the coach's Microsoft Speech Engine pronunciation. Spell 1st could use a bit of efficiency in its packaging. The 65MB download seems extremely large for the included content, and the program consumes nearly 60MB of system memory while running. Nevertheless, the engaging Spell 1st Home Edition should encourage first-grade students and early bloomers to become master spellers.
Mastering the top 100 Sight Words gives early readers a big boost. These 100 words make up nearly 50% of all literature, yet they require the most effort to learn. Phonics, even picture flash cards can't help teach words like "the". Give your early reader improved fluency and confidence. With Spell 1st, your child will learn independently with talking animals in a cute baby's fort, under the kitchen table. The silly pet dog will enunciate each word in a clear, recorded voice. Watch the animal coaches use amusing facial expressions to coax your child to spell "to", "the", "is" and 97 others. Listen to your child giggle when the 10 animal coaches praise him or her by name. Even children new to the computer will be practicing in minutes, eager to score more points. Minimal to no adult assistance or "nudging" is needed. Learning independently is a win-win for you and your child.
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